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Preparation, discipline cause for concern after two weeks

The Illini have looked unprepared for their opponents. Can they break this trend?

Brad Repplinger // TCR

19-7, 34-7.

This is how the first two games of the season against Toledo and Kansas has played out for the Illini, before making a comeback to some capacity, whether it be winning against Toledo, or falling short against Kansas.

This vast of a change from the first part of the game to the second part doesn’t just happen without gameplay changes to adapt to the opponent.

It's good that this is happening, but it also points to a lack of pregame preparation.

Preparation needs to improve

Jack Jungmann


When asked about the part of the defense that concerned him most in Week 1, Bret Bielema’s response was: “I think some fundamentals. We preach all the time good football players are a result of good fundamentals, bad players are a result of bad fundamentals.”

This is one of the most talented rosters the Illini have had over the past decade. With one preseason First-Team All-American selection, and six preseason All-Big Ten selections in total, fundamentals should not be main concern.

Coverage was a cause of concern during the Kansas game, Bielema noting a few instances of bad routes/angles taken by DBs and some pass interference calls that didn't need to happen during his “fundamentals” portion of his press conference. In this case, it makes sense. Dylan Rosiek, Miles Scott, Xavier Scott, Gabe Jacas, James Kreutz, and a few more are all sophomores or younger on the defensive side of the ball, so fundamental issues are bound to happen.

The issues that are a little more concerning is on the offensive side of the ball. There were just far too many dropped balls by the receivers, a few of which led to turnovers to put the game in an even larger deficit. This is the most talented and experienced receiver room the Illini have had in a while, and these kinds of fundamental mistakes should not be taking place as often as they are.

First Half vs. Second Half

Both games were completely different stories if you look at the scores from each half. Bielema had stated that Kansas threw a couple plays that caught the team off guard and they had to learn on the fly from it. That is a good thing to hear because it appears they did learn from it. 28 points in the first half vs. 6 in the second is a pretty drastic change.

The problem is with the pregame preparation.

“When you play an early season opponent, they have the entire year to look at your film,” Bielema said after the loss.

Kansas can get credit for how it prepared and executed the gameplan, but it is also fair to question then why Illinois looked so lost out of the gate. Adjustments were made and that's a great sign for the future, but when a team has an entire offseason to scout a team there should be a better outcome, especially considering Kansas is the first Power 5 team of the season.

Brad Repplinger


One thing that goes along with preparation is being able to play a clean game. The Illini had more penalty yards by a good margin in both games, 22 more in the Kansas game and 60 more in the Toledo game.

The disciplinary problems will probably work themselves out as the younger defensive guys start to get more reps, but 100 penalty yards week one against a non-Power 5 opponent (no disrespect to Toledo) is much less than ideal.

Moving on

Am I being too harsh on a team that had a good amount of turnover? Probably, but this season is one of the most important in a good while. In order to capitalize on the success built in 2022, this season has to at least rival the last, and so far it has been a little bit disappointing.

There are numerous problems so far, but being unprepared for the first two opponents of the season has to be the most jarring of them all. That being said, preparation is a problem that is easily overcome, and these issues should work themselves out as the weeks go on.

With the biggest matchup so far looming, it is hard to see the Illini being unprepared for Penn State. Learn lessons, and onto the next.